Monday, June 30, 2014

Take Me to the River

Take Me to the River:



by Syl Johnson, who celebrates a birthday tomorrow. The song was co-written by singer Al Green and guitarist Mabon "Teenie" Hodges. Hodges is still being actively mourned right now, as his death on 6/22 at age 68 is recent.

lyrics:
I don't know why I love you like I do
After all these changes that you put me through
You stole my money and my cigarettes
And I haven't seen hide nor hair of you yet

I wanna know
Won't you tell me
Am I in love to stay?

Take me to the river
And wash me down
Won't you cleanse my soul
Put my feet on the ground

I don't know why she treated me so bad
Look at all those things that we could have had
Love is a notion that I can't forget
My sweet sixteen I will never regret

I wanna know
Won't you tell me
Am I in love to stay?

Hold me, love me, please me, tease me
Till I can't, till I can't take no more
Take me to the river

I don't know why I love you like I do
After all the things that you put me through
The sixteen candles burning on my wall
Turning me into the biggest fool of them all

I wanna know
Oh won't you tell me
Am I in love to stay?

I wanna know
Take me to the river
I wanna know
I want you to dip me in the water
I wanna know
Won't you wash me in the water
Wash me in the water
Wash me in the water
Won't you wash me in the water
Feeling good

Sunday, June 29, 2014

BB King's Blues Club


The Daughter and I went out to lunch. That's always fun. On this day we went to BB King's downtown on Beale Street. We were seated at a 2-person table right next to the stage where BB King actually still sometimes performs. (The Younger Son heard him there once.)We had their BBQ sandwich and homemade potato chips:


I wish you could taste it! The picture is a bit blurry, but we think this is the best bbq sandwich in town! The waitress was great, very friendly and attentive. My total, including sweet tea, tax and tip, was $17.

Yelp gives it 3 1/2 out of 5 stars. Urban Spoon has a rating of 82%.

I also took a picture of the view from Beale Street Landing:


Another fun day Walking in Memphis "with my feet ten feet off of Beale".

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Despicable Me 2

Despicable Me 2 has this in it:



and that ought to be enough. But there's more. This movie is absolutely delightful! I cannot praise it (and the first one, too) enough. Great fun.

trailer:


Moria says,
Despicable Me worked because of the adorability of its central character’s arc – the bad guy slowly being warmed up by the cute kids. The problem that Despicable Me 2 faces is that that particular character arc is resolved and the sequel is left with the essential question of “what happens after happily ever after?”
Rolling Stone gives it 3 out of 4 stars, calls it "a first-class charm assault" and says, "the high spirits of Despicable Me 2 are irresistible fun". Empire Online gives it 3 out of 5 stars and says, "plot is barely the skeleton of this shaggy-dog story, which sags in the middle before racing towards an entertaining conclusion". Slant Magazine gives it a mere 1 1/2 out of 4 stars, calls it "a film that attempts to appeal to every cinematic taste on the spectrum and ultimately offers scant satisfactions in return" and concludes, "At its best, Despicable Me 2 recalls the wild comic bedlam of Looney Tunes or golden-era Nickelodeon programming ..., but the script's jumble of plot asides and family-friendly pandering is enough to make you want to root for a hero." EW gives it a lousy grade of C and christens it "the surprisingly toothless sequel".

RogerEbert.com's reviewer liked the first one better but has positive things to say. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of just 74% because apparently some critics are fuddy duddies.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz

Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz is the 3rd in the Outpost series and is a prequel. If you like Nazi zombies -and what's not to like- you will appreciate this one. It's not nearly as good as the 1st one, but I never expect sequels to be as good as the first one. I did get a kick out of the introduction of the "Yankee": "My name is Rogers, but you can call me "Captain"."

trailer:



Fangoria says it's "a fun watch, offering enough for action and horror fans alike. It’s bloody and brutal while sleek and respectful of its place within the franchise, and sure to please fans of the first two films as well as the unfamiliar." Fearnet says, "Rise of the Spetsnaz is little more than action/horror/war movie lunacy that you may come across on cable one night, but if the idea of action, horror, and war movie lunacy sounds like fun to you, I'd say start at Outpost Uno and work your way through." Quiet Earth says, "I doubt that Outpost III: Rise of the Spetsnaz will win many awards (perhaps something for its impressive sound design and editing) but it passes the time in a generally satisfying way".

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Swords and Deviltry


Swords and Deviltry is the first book in the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series by Fritz Leiber. There were 6 more books to follow, all but the last published in the 1970s with the last one not coming 'til 1988. I've had several of these books for decades but have never gotten around to them. It's time to fish or cut bait, so -before I donate them somewhere- I decided to actually read one of them. One of the tales, "Ill Met in Lankhmar", won the Hugo and the Nebula for best novella. I liked it fine but not enough to send me diving into all the others in the series. I'll keep them, though, and get around to the rest eventually.

description from Wikipedia:
The Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories follow the lives of two larcenous but likable rogues as they adventure across the fantasy world of Nehwon. The pieces in Swords and Deviltry introduce the duo and their relationship ("Induction"), present incidents from their early lives in which they meet their first lady-loves (Fafhrd in "The Snow Women", the Gray Mouser in "The Unholy Grail"), and relate how afterwards in the city of Lankhmar the two met and allied themselves with each other, and lost their first loves through their defiance of the local Thieves' Guild ("Ill Met in Lankhmar").
favorite quote:
Afterward loses too many battles to Too Late.
SF Site concludes, "If you like sword and sorcery, action-adventure in a pre-medieval world, then Fritz Leiber's Swords and Deviltry is an excellent addition to your collection." Stainless Steel Droppings says, "I am very impressed with Fritz Leiber’s work thus far and understand completely why it is proclaimed that he defined this genre with his work." Little Red Reviewer says,
Swords and Deviltry was deliciously, ridiculously, wonderfully, fun. It’s got all the adventure and banter and narrow escapes and rickety staircases and doomed romances and adventure and drunken banter and everything I love about adventure fantasy. If published today, this would be called dark fantasy.
The photo at the top of the post (which came from Wikipedia) is from the first edition of this book. I used it instead of a photo of my own book because my copy has more than one book included in it and doesn't even have this book's name on the cover.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Captain Apache

Captain Apache (1971) (also called Deathwork and The Guns of April Morning) doesn't even have a Wikipedia entry, which ought to tell you something. (Oh, wait, there's a Norwegian Wikipedia entry!) I'm watching it because it stars Lee Van Cleef, who is one of my favorites. In this one, though, he wears a horrible wig and sings. He sings twice! He also strips down to almost nothing in this movie, which I can't remember seeing him do before. Stuart Whitman is also in it. The movie is styled as a spaghetti western, but is actually a Spanish/British production.

synopsis from the youtube page:
Captain Apache (Lee Van Cleef), a Native American serving in the Union army, is sent to investigate the mysterious murder of an Indian agent. The dead man's dying words are "April morning," but anyone who divulges the secret is quickly shot.
via youtube (edited to bleep out instances of folks saying red "ass" -how petty!):


I'm planning to watch every movie VanCleef was ever in. That's my excuse. What's yours?

Spaghetti-Western.net says,
Captain Apache is a movie with an ultra-bad reputation, but I've always thought it was kind of enjoyable when watched in the right state of mind. The mystery is played out well enough to keep you guessing what the hell is going on and the far-fetched (and fairly ridiculous) solution perfectly fits the slaphappy storytelling.
10K Bullets says, "Lee Van Cleef makes everything he appears in better and in Captain Apache not only do we get to hear him sing the films theme song. We get to see Van Cleef in full Indian dress wearing a hair piece."

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Casablanca Cafe

photo from CasablancaMemphis.com

The Daughter and I had noticed the Casablanca Cafe on Poplar several times, and we tried them for lunch one day recently. I wanted to share it with the T(ea) Tuesday party, since the tea was such a unique taste experience for me.

I had the Chicken Schawerma:


You can see The Daughter's Chicken Kabob in the background of the picture. You can see the menu at this link. The food was wonderful! We each had the hot tea, which is described as "the best tea in Memphis" and is a black tea with sage, ginger and honey. They let us try it 2 different ways, with one being appreciably sweeter than the other. You can taste more of the ginger in the less sweet tea. We liked them both. In fact, we liked it so much we bought some of the loose tea (in that jar behind my plate you can see in the photo above).

The service was helpful and friendly, and they made us feel right at home. The price for both of us, including tax and tip, was just over $45, which is steep for us. When I go back, I'll try to order something cheaper from the menu. It is very good food, though, and the restaurant is even more beautiful than these photographs show.

The Urban Spoon gives it a score of 90% with 394 votes. Yelp gives it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars with 119 ratings. Tart and Teal says it's "fantastic".

Monday, June 23, 2014

Nifty

Nifty



by Muck Sticky.

from the lyrics: "The world needs a lot more happy people anyway."

Sunday, June 22, 2014

National Treasure

National Treasure is a 2004 adventure film, starring Nicolas Cage, Harvey Keitel, Jon Voight, Diane Kruger, Sean Bean, Justin Bartha and Christopher Plummer. This DVD was a Christmas present to The Husband from The Younger Son, neither of whom had seen it before. I had seen it on tv several years ago, maybe while I was at Mother's, and enjoyed it. It is harmless fun. It has Sean Bean in it, after all.

trailer:


Rolling Stone gives it 1 out of 4 stars and condemns it:
And director Jon Turteltaub (Phenomenom) directs with robotic cheerlessness. For Cage, this is a paycheck movie. For Bartha, it's an attempt to make the public forget he was in Gigli. For Kruger, who played Helen in Troy, it's proof positive she can't act. For the audience, it should be torture.
EW gives it a B- and says, "The movie is about as nourishing as a bowl of trail mix, but it's hard to stop eating." Empire Online gives it 2 out of 5 stars and concludes, "Pulling off the neat trick of being simultaneously moronic and mildly educational, National Treasure is The Da Vinci Code lite -rubbish certainly, but not without a certain charming stupidity." DVD Talk calls it "a fun, light-hearted adventure in the vein of Indiana Jones" and says it's "an entertaining adventure that the whole family can enjoy---and that makes this film something of a rare gem in its own right". Roger Ebert closes with this:
Cage, one of my favorite actors, is ideal for this caper because he has the ability to seem uncontrollably enthusiastic about almost anything. ... "National Treasure" is so silly that the Monty Python version could use the same screenplay, line for line.
Rotten Tomatoes has a critics core of 44%.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

42 Way Up High


This 42 is on the south side of Summer Avenue close to Pope. I wonder how the artist got up there.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island

Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island is the 3rd of the films in the Samurai trilogy directed by Hiroshi Inagaki. Toshirō Mifune stars as the main character, who in this film has given up his life as a wandering swordsman, declined the patronage of a powerful lord and retreated to a quiet life in a farming village. He does accept a challenge to a duel and fights that duel in this film. The trilogy takes place over the course of 12 years. These movies -especially the 1st and 3rd- are amazing to watch and definitely worth watching again.

I can't find an emmbeddable trailer online, but oddly enough found this:




Slant Magazine, which has a thorough plot description including screen shots, describes the film as "principally about the intersection of two extraordinary fencers: Musashi and Kojiro Sasaki. Everything in the story builds up to their inevitable duel." DVD Talk says the trilogy is "A colorful historical epic that also can serve as an excellent introduction to the jidai-geki ("period drama") genre and postwar Japanese film generally". Criterion Reflections opens by saying, "As the grand finale of an epic, heroic film trilogy, Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island delivers admirably on the promise put forth by its predecessors".

Thursday, June 19, 2014

G.: a novel


G. is a 1972 novel by John Berger. It won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Booker Prize. Here's the description from Wikipedia:
The novel's setting is pre-First World War Europe, and its protagonist, named "G.", is a Don Juan or Casanova-like lover of women who gradually comes to political consciousness after misadventures across the continent.
selected quotes:
What matters is not being dead
In dreams there are new categories of emotion. In all dreams, even bad ones, there is a sense of immanent resolution such as one scarcely ever experiences when awake. By resolution, I mean the answering of all questions.
I'm laughing at us.
At me because I was frightened?
No, at the two of us here whilst he was crossing the Alps [on a first attempt to cross the Alps in a plane].
He may die.
And one day I'll die and you, too, with your beautiful brown eyes and white teeth. There is never any time to lose.
Don't you have any feelings for him at all?
I had no time.
I don't understand what you say.
No chance ever comes twice.
To be born a woman was to be born within an allotted and confined space, into the keeping of man. A woman's presence developed as the precipitate of her ingenuity in living under such tutelage within such a limited cell. She furnished her cell, as it were, with her presence; not primarily in order to make it more agreeable to herself, but in the hope of persuading others to enter it.
The wife so values the time still left her that she is desperate to fill it with new experience.
The widow so despises the time still left her that she is certain that no true experience can enter it.
Both are deceived.
A waltz is a circle in which ribbons of sentiment rise and fall. The music unites the bows and ties them again.
What mattered the first time was what her expression confirmed and what until that moment had been wordless: what mattered then was not being dead. Now, the second time, what mattered was what her expression confirmed and what until now had been wordless: why not be dead?
The stream of involuntary, precise but concatenating memories which filled his mind seemed to elongate his past life. This I have indeed suggested. But it was equally true that, because nothing remembered could be isolated and set independently within its own time, his remembered life also appeared excessively hurried and brief. Memory alternately stretched and compressed his life until, under this form of torture, time became meaningless.
Perhaps death when it arrives is always a mounting surprise which surprises itself to the point at which all reference -and therefore all self-distinction- disappears.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with this book. It was enjoyable enough, and I don't regret reading it. I might use it as an example of books that make a splash when they are published or which win some award or other but which never rise to greatness. How many people, I wonder, would read this book again or who -having read it- would try to get a friend to read it so they they could discuss it together. I bought this book some years ago when I was trying to read all the Booker winners. I'm done trying. The Booker winners are, as often as not, a disappointment these days. I'll check reviews of the winners before I invest time in them from now on.

Time says, "Berger’s acceptance speech just may be more famous than the work itself." The Guardian tells this story:
The Booker, you see, had a dirty little (open) secret. Its sponsors, Booker McGonnall, had garnered much of their wealth, as Berger related in his acceptance speech, from 130 years of trading in the Caribbean. "The modern poverty of the Caribbean is the direct result of this and similar exploitation," he said. He also later told everyone that he was going to give half his prize money to the Black Panthers - who were, as he explained, "the black movement with the socialist and revolutionary perspective that I find myself most in agreement with in this country". Right on!
and in this review says, "you can't enjoy G without taking it as seriously as Berger does, but the sense of a writer giving everything he's got makes that easier than you'd think".

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Inspiration and Bocce Ball


There are always so many little day-brighteners to see when The Daughter and I wander downtown. A week or so ago we saw the inspirational sign above, and this Bocce Ball Court:


which is intended to be a pet-friendly green space and community gathering spot. We see something new every time we go down there. We both think it'd be great fun to live downtown. The Husband is not convinced. I'm sure he'd understand our view if he'd spend more time there, but I admit chemotherapy does make long walks on concrete a less attractive past-time than it would otherwise be. Maybe next year, I'll drag him along and force him to my will. [evil laugh] Of course, being able to afford housing downtown is another subject. I like this one. Look at the city view:


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

One Cup

One Cup is a short documentary film about the effect traditional coffee plantations have on the lives of farmers in East Timor and how Fair Trade coffee can change their lives for the better:


Dominic Allen is the director. This is his first film as director. from the vimeo page:
One Cup is a moving and visually arresting reminder of the ever increasing need for support for the millions of third and developing world farmers across the globe.

Not to dwell on that whole guilt thing, but what we do does make a difference to other people. Where we can make a difference for good, shouldn't we? You can find more information at FairTradeUSA.org. Ugly Mug coffee here in Memphis uses only fair trade certified coffee. Peets offers a Fair Trade blend. These are our favorite coffees right now and taste better than anything else we've tried.

Fair Trade teas are also a "thing".

Please join the T(ea) Tuesday party at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Devil is Whipping His Wife

The Devil is Whipping His Wife:



by Yancy & Yancy

lyrics from youtube:
Aint no simple thing
This life she leads
Who wants to take the time
To watch a woman ...bleed.

Oh she chose this path
And she'd choose it again
To be touched by this angel of Light and Pain

Yeah he shines like the sun
But it takes its toll
His reign of anger tears at her soul.

Like a drug he is sweet
But it bites down hard
She's trying her best
To hide the scars.

CHORUS:

And the devil is whipping his wife,
While the rain pours in
And the sun is shining bright
While he starts to grin
The devil is whipping his wife
and she gives in.

He's the best he can be
he's better than some
Just what his daddy did ...and his daddy did
Since time began.

She says she stays out of fear
But you know it ain't true
She's craving his touch
Till she's black and blue.

CHORUS:
And the devil is whipping his wife
while the rain pours in
and the sun is shining bright
while he starts to grin
The devil is whipping his wife
And she gives in
She gives in
She gives in.

(C) Copyright 2011
Cecil and Linda Yancy
yancyandyancy.com

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Mellow Mushroom


We had tried the Mellow Mushroom a few months ago, but my calzone was burned -actually black on the bottom- and I didn't blog the experience. We went back recently to give them a 2nd chance. The menu is online here. They are a regional chain. Before I start, I'll say that the service was good. Our waitress was pleasant, fast, and just attentive enough. No complaints there.

The hostess who seated us dropped 3 of the 4 napkin-wrapped flatware sets on the floor, then picked them up and put them at our places at the table. When I said, "Since they've been on the floor, could you bring us clean ones?" she took 3 at random from the table (the 3 that had hit the floor? Perhaps...) and in just a moment brought back what I guess was fresh flatware. Who knows? Yuck. Maybe we should've left then.

We started with 6 butter and kosher salt pretzels (2 were already on plates by the time I took this shot):


I ordered the house calzone again:


It wasn't burned this time. The crust was tough and chewy, though. I was able to eat about 1/2 of it before my jaw tired out. The Husband ordered a small beef pizza and soft drink, and The Younger Son ordered a medium pepperoni and sausage and water:


They said their crust was tough and chewy like my calzone, and they gave up after finishing half of theirs, too. The Younger Son said the pepperoni was spongy and "funny tasting". He has bragging rights on being experienced with bad frozen pizza pepperoni, but he says this is the worst he's had. He liked the sausage.

It's a shame. I know "them that likes it speaks well of it," but we don't like it. There are much better pizzas and calzones around, and we won't be coming back here.

Our tab, including tax and tip was about $70, which is another good reason to eat elsewhere.

The Memphis Flyer says, "While I wouldn’t recommend choosing Mellow Mushroom if you have a limited amount of time to dine, the friendly, funky atmosphere and delicious pizzas and beer make it a worthwhile trip." Go Memphis has a positive review. Yelp gives it 3 1/2 out of 5 stars with 23 reviews. Urban Spoon has a score of 57%.





Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Fountain

I keep seeing this movie on lists of movies to see, and I finally saw it. It was hard for me to watch because it has a focus on life and death and the lengths we sometimes go to to prolong life, but it was worth watching for me just for the insight it provided into my own life and loss. And it is such a beautiful film.  The Fountain is a 2006 Darren Aronofsky science fiction film. from Wikipedia:
At its core, The Fountain is the story of a 21st-century doctor, Tom Creo (Hugh Jackman), losing his wife Izzi (Rachel Weisz) to cancer in 2005. As she is dying, Izzi begs Tom to share what time they have left together, but he is focused on his quest to find a cure for her.
There are 3 separate story lines showing the main characters at different times 500 years apart: the modern-day research doctor Tom and his dying wife Izzy; a Spanish conquistador Tomás on a quest in the Mayan rainforest searching for the biblical Tree of Life for his queen; the future Tommy on the way to the nebula Xibalba with the Tree of Life to that he can restore Izzy's life.

Sometimes you can find this film online, but it is worth having easier access to.

trailer:


The music was written by Clint Mansell and performed by the Kronos Quartet and Mogwai:



Moria says, "There is no story – just a series of fragments of half-told dramas hung together by a series of visual interplays and pretensions to profundity." Slant Magazine gives it 3 out of 4 stars and says, "the audaciousness with which Aronofsky proceeds is invigorating, just as his marriage of aesthetic and thematic concerns is subtly spellbinding." Slate has a negative review.  Empire Online gives it 4 out of 5 stars and concludes, "At heart, this is a simple Zen fable about love and death. In execution, it’s a complex and gorgeous mini-epic with sterling performances from its two stars." Total Film gives it 4 out of 5 stars and ends with this: "Science-fiction meets emotional fact. An intelligent, time-spanning love story that deserves the benefit of any doubt. Watch. And watch again." Spirituality and Practice says, "Izzy is a spiritual teacher who models for him in many ways a finely finished dying. She is at peace with her passing and fearless. This worthwhile message, which is at the heart of all religions, comes across loud and clear in The Fountain". DVD Talk closes by saying,
Darren Aronofsky has written a script that is philosophical, spiritual, and emotional, and he has somehow dressed it up in truly gorgeous clothes without disappearing up his own behind in a fit of pretentiousness. Working with marvelous performances by Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, the director has made a movie that is both a heady rush and emotionally powerful, giving us a feast for our eyes while also stimulating our brains and our hearts. A very rare treat.
Roger Ebert says, "There will someday be a Director’s Cut of this movie, and that’s the cut I want to see." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 51%, but the viewer rating is much higher.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple

Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple is the 2nd film in the Samurai trilogy directed by Hiroshi Inagaki. Toshiro Mifune stars as the titular samurai warrior. The story is loosely based on the historical figure Miyamoto Musashi. I'm enjoying these. They are dramatic, have nice touches of humor, and are action-filled.

trailer:



DVD Talk says,
These three features, directed by Hiroshi Inagaki and starring Toshiro Mifune, were back in the 1980s widely available for rent on VHS from public libraries and even most video rental stores, this at a time when few stores offered more than a tiny handful of foreign language titles. The trilogy was popular on laserdisc and among the most widely available Criterion titles in that format, and it was also one of Criterion's first DVD releases, debuting in July 1998.
Slant Magazine has a lengthy plot description with numerous screen shots and says,
With startling efficiency, and with a commanding and convincing performance by Toshirô Mifune, Inagaki manages to express the very pith and spirit of Musashi's fighting philosophy as well as portray the considerable advancement of his character through his episode with the Yoshioka school.
Weird Wild Realm calls the opening "excellently staged, thrillingly timed & gorgeously photographed" and has a plot description and screen shots, comparing this work with other adaptations of the story. Rotten Tomatoes doesn't have critic reviews, but the audience rating is 86%.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Surface Detail


Surface Detail is a science fiction novel in the Culture series by Iain M. Banks. I'm a huge fan of this series, and I still mourn the recent and untimely death of the author. This book is a great addition to the series, with a view of the Culture's ruthlessness that doesn't show up in all the books.

from the flyleaf:
It begins in the realm of the Real,
where matter still matters.
It begins with a murder.
And it will not end until the Culture has
gone to war with death itself.

Lededje Y'breq is one of the Intagliated, her marked body bearing witness to a family shame, her life belonging to a man whose lust for power is without limit. Prepared to risk everything for her freedom, her release, when it comes, is at a price, and to put things right she will need the help of the Culture.

Benevolent, enlightened and almost infinitely resourceful though it may be, the Culture can only do so much for any individual. With the assistance of one of its most powerful -and arguably deranged- warships, Lededje finds herself heading into a combat zone not even sure which side the Culture is really on. A war -brutal, far-reaching- is already raging within the digital realms that store the souls of the dead, and it's about to erupt into reality.

It started in the realm of the Real and that is where it will end. It will touch countless lives and affect entire civilizations, but at the center of it all is a young woman whose need for revenge masks another motive altogether

Strange Horizons closes with this:
That a Culture novel is flabby, digressive, and mired in surplus bits of SFnal invention and philosophical musings is only to be expected, and sometimes part of the fun. That it does all these things in the service of such a mealy-mouthed message is profoundly disappointing. It's admirable that Banks is trying to find new things to say about the Culture and new ways to expand the series's universe, but judging by Surface Detail, he hasn't yet figured out how to do so successfully.
io9 calls it "some of the best work he's done in his galaxy-spanning Culture universe." The Guardian says, "the novel's real power lies in the absorbing questions it poses about the value of the real, as opposed to the virtual, about who or what is expendable, and whether a society is better held together by threats or by promises." The Independent says, "In spite of the horrors Banks gives us here, the general effect of this book is entertainment" and suggests you can start here in the series but will be better served reading others first. The LA Times says, "Culture fans will enjoy "Surface Detail," but others may wish for fewer layers and a little more depth."

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

RP Tracks


RP Tracks has opened up a brand-new covered patio, so we picked a pretty day and tried it out for lunch. To be honest, this was a few weeks ago, and I can't remember what The Husband ate or how much anything cost. I had the Spinach, Grilled Portabella & Feta Cheese Quesadilla:


I've had it before and always enjoy it. One of these days, I'll try something else. It's just that I enjoy this so much. You can see the various menus linked from their home page. The patio was very comfortable. We'll go back after they've finished the construction across the street. The old YMCA is being transformed into retail space.

Yelp gives it 4 out of 5 stars. Urban Spoon has a score of 87%. Trip Advisor gives it 3 1/2 out of 5. There seem to be some complaints about the service. We've always had good service there, but it sounds like you can't depend on it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Lemon Curd


I had heard of lemon curd before but never tasted it, then one day I saw some on the store shelf and decided to try it. This is Dickinson's Lemon Curd and is quite tasty. It doesn't have a strong taste at all, but is just a bit tart. It was perfect on my English muffin. I enjoyed it with Taylors Scottish Breakfast Tea.

We had lots of blackberry bushes out back when I was growing up, and I loved Mother's blackberry jam. The store-bought versions -when you can find it- just can't compete. She also made pear preserves, which was a delight and which also was light years beyond the pitiful store-bought versions. I sadly never learned to make these, so I satisfy myself with trying things that are new to me. This lemon curd is quite a find! It'll join my other favorite (orange marmalade) as a staple in the fridge.

The Younger Son sticks with grape jelly, and The Husband prefers strawberry preserves. I like both of those, but I'd rather branch out into new food territory when I can. That means there are always 5 or 6 open jars of some kind of jellied fruit in the kitchen. It's the little things that make for fun around here.

As I look around online, I see that you can make your own lemon curd. Cupcake Jemma is cute as can be as she shares her grandmother's recipe with us:


There are also lots of ideas online for what to do with lemon curd if you don't want to just slather it on an English muffin. Serious Eats has some ideas, and Yummly has several recipes with photos.

I'm going to go visit the tea party at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog, where she has a Linky to help us get acquainted.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Will I Ever Make It Home

Will I Ever Make It Home:



by Ingram Hill

lyrics:
Woke up from my sleep to the sound of that voice
From the words that I heard I had no choice
They told me I had to turn around
My assurance slowly faded down
And I wonder

Will I ever make it home
Will i ever leave the ground
Leave this place so far behind

The plans that I had were quickly destroyed
The problem was one I couldn't avoid
They welcomed me to stay overnight
I'm too tired to complain so I just might
And I wonder

Will I ever make it home
To the place I recognise
Far from here and where I've been
And all the things that I've been shown

Will I ever make it home
Can they keep me here for good
Where I hardly know a soul
And my fear keeps going on

Weariness keeps growing inside
My patience is starting to subside
And I hope I'll be there soon
It can't be long or I'll fall through

Woke up from my sleep to the sound of that voice
From the words that I heard I had no choice
They told me I had to turn around
My assurance slowly faded down
And I wonder

Will I ever make it home
Will i ever leave the ground
Leave this place so far behind
'Til there is no turning back

Will I ever make it home
Get to where I want to be
Find the ones who wait for me
To the place where I belong

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Samuel Beckett's Film

Samuel Beckett only made one movie, a 1965 short film starring Buster Keaton. The film is named Film. It's an odd project. Imdb has this summary:
A twenty-minute, almost totally silent film (no dialogue or music one 'shhh!') in which Buster Keaton attempts to evade observation by an all-seeing eye. But, as the film is based around Bishop Berkeley's principle 'esse est percipi' (to be is to be perceived), Keaton's very existence conspires against his efforts. -Written by Michael Brooke michael@everyman.demon.co.uk

via vimeo:



I found out about this through Open Culture, where you can find information on the making of the movie. The Guardian reports:
Film, because of its brevity and its obtuse subject matter, proved almost impossible to market though, ironically, it did play as part of a Keaton season in the following year's New York Film Festival where it was greeted with what Cronin calls 'a resentful silence' that was broken by the chorus of loud booing that accompanied the credits. It has seldom been shown since and predictably has attained cult status among both Beckett and Keaton aficionados.
There is a documentary called "Not Film" in the works, and you can see the trailer for that via youtube:

Saturday, June 07, 2014

10 Thought-Provoking Science Fiction Movies

Pop Matters (via SF Signal) has a list of The Top 10 Thought-Provoking Science Fiction Films:
#1 - 2001: A Space Odyssey
#2 - Solaris
#3 - The Fountain
#4 - Children of Men
#5 - Soylent Green
#6 - Blade Runner
#7 - Primer
#8 - Dark City
#9 - Planet of the Apes
#10 - Metropolis

Pop Matters explains the concept explored in each film that makes it "thought-provoking". I've seen all but The Fountain. I really need to see that one; it shows up on a lot of lists.

Friday, June 06, 2014

The Hidden Fortress

The Hidden Fortress is a 1958 Akira Kurosawa film starring Toshiro Mifune. We have the Criterion edition of this film. It is worth watching and watching again.

trailer:


Here is an interesting side-by-side scene comparison of The Hidden Fortress and Star Wars illustrating the influence:



Senses of Cinema closes by saying, "It is, truly, this director’s lightest work, but on the other hand I don’t think it’s too left-handed a compliment to say that it’s among his “lesser masterpieces,” for that places it on a very high plane indeed." Kurosawa in Review has a plot description with accompanying screen shots. Slant Magazine gives it 4 out of 5 stars and says,
Kurosawa most often did his finest work when combining his idiosyncratic and popular sensibilities into humane, broadly accessible entertainments; it just so happens that The Hidden Fortress remains more unabashedly entertaining than most.
Star Wars was influenced by this film, and there's more interest in that angle now that more Star Wars films are being made. DVD Talk says,
The movie, later the basis for the first Star Wars (1977), to the point where Hidden Fortress star Toshiro Mifune was even considered for the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi, remains as thrillingly entertaining now as it was 55 years ago. An epic period adventure, The Hidden Fortress is escapist gold, full of suspenseful action and broad comedy undated by the passage of time. It is, perhaps, Kurosawa's most accessible film for those normally scared off by foreign movies with English subtitles.
The BBC calls it "A comic epic" and says,
"The Hidden Fortress" effortlessly intertwines action, drama, and comedy in the story of a defeated general, Rokurota (Mifune), who is charged with guarding a princess as she flees to safety during the Japanese clan wars of the 16th century. Faced with having to escort the princess and her stockpile of gold alone, Rokurota enlists the help of two oafish peasants, Tahei (Chiaki) and Matakishi (Fujiwara).
Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

In the Woods


In the Woods is the 2007 debut novel of Tana French. It's a mystery involving a detective in his late 20s (30s?) who, as a 12 year old boy, survived whatever it was that took his companions in the woods. He has no memory of it still, but still it haunts him. And now the body of a recently-reported-missing 12-year-old girl has been found in that same location. It won the award for best first novel from the Edgar, the Macavity, the Barry and the Anthony Awards. That record ought to be enough to entice the reader. How did that tv commercial go? "Try it, you'll like it."

And I did like it.

The story is told as the main character looks back over it. It was a quick read, and I found it interesting as I was reading. I saw through one of the characters almost immediately and apparently I wasn't supposed to. When the main character finally gets it, he seems to think we should also be surprised. It certainly didn't spoil the story, but it surprised me that a police detective could've been so clueless about it.

There are more in this loose series, all of which take place in Ireland. The second book begins several months after this first one ends and features Cassie, who is the partner of the point-of-view detective in the first one. The third one focuses on an officer who is mentioned in the first one and works closely with Cassie in the second. The fourth picks up a character from the third book and gives him charge of an investigation. They all sound interesting -and this one was "unputdownable" as one reviewer says- but for some reason I'm not aching to rush out and buy the rest. I may yet read them all. Some later time. It's just that I have so many books I haven't read yet already on my shelf.

from the back of the book:
The debut novel of an astonishing new voice in psychological suspense

In Tana French's powerful debut thriller, three children leave their small Dublin neighborhood to play in the surrounding woods. Hours later, their mothers' calls go unanswered. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children, gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.

Twenty years later, Detective Rob Ryan -the found boy, who has kept his past a secret- and his partner Cassie Maddox investigate the murder of a twelve-year-old girl in the same woods. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him, and that of his own shadowy past.
selected quotes:
There was a time when I believed, with the police and the media and my stunned parents, that I was the redeemed one, the boy borne safely home on the ebb of whatever freak tide carried Peter and Jamie away. Not any more. In ways too dark and crucial to be called metaphorical, I never left that wood.
I know very well that perfection is made up of frayed, off-struck mundanities.
"...I don't believe in the Church, do you get me? Any church. Religion exists to keep people in their place and paying into the collection plate."
Say say my playmate, come out and play with me, climb up my apple tree... Two two, the lily-white boys, clothed all in green-o, one is one and all alone and evermore shall be so...
You're the perfect person for this case, Rosalind had said to me, and the words were still ringing in my head as I watched her go. Even now, I wonder whether subsequent events proved her completely right or utterly and horribly wrong, and what criteria one could possibly use to tell the difference.

There's a mention of Elvis about half-way through:""Thank you very much, thankyouverymuch, "Sam said in a deep Elvis voice, grinning."" Music by Michelle Shocked is played in someone's home during a social encounter. At one point they play the game Cranium. The TV prison series Oz gets a mention.

Kirkus Reviews concludes "When not lengthily bogged down in angst, a readable, non-formulaic police procedural with a twist. It’s ultimately the confession of a damaged man." The EuroCrime reviewer says, "I have often read the word "unputdownable" to describe a book, but in this case it is true: I was glad I started the book on a weekend and had no other commitments, so I could finish it in a day." The Washington Post calls it "a long book, densely layered and meticulously imagined" and says, "Whether the ending succeeds will likely be debated, but French's decisions are unexpected and unnerving -- a bold close to a daring novel."

There's a reading guide here.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Blooming Lilies


I went to the Memphis Botanic Gardens yesterday afternoon to see what lilies were blooming. I saw some -in fact, I saw a lot- but there are a lot not yet in bloom. I'll have to keep an eye on them. Here are the lilies I did see:





and my favorite, the common field lily:


Of course, there are plenty of other plants in bloom throughout the gardens:


They have a specific area called the Nature Photography Garden, but I've only strolled through it. I need to spend some time there.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Belz Museum of Asiatic and Judaic Art


During a recent visit with The Daughter to the Belz Museum of Asiatic and Judaic Art on South Main Street in Downtown Memphis, I came across this lovely tea set and decided to share it for Bleubeard and Elizabeth's weekly T(ea) Tuesday gathering. Isn't it wonderful?

The entire museum is a treasure. I'll try to take you on a mini-tour to give you just a taste of our experience, but it must be personally experienced to be truly appreciated. The museum is located on the Main Street Mall just around the corner from my car's home-away-from-home -the Parking Can Be Fun garage. Here's the entrance:


You go in here, then you go down a flight of stairs to the gift shop/ticket booth. Admission is only $6 for adults. We saw the Judaic exhibit first, including the new Holocaust Memorial rooms. I wasn't able to get good photos in that section -the lighting, maybe? I didn't want to use a flash. There is a photo gallery at the web site showing some of the art in that collection. The Daughter was able to get a good shot of some of the portraits in the Holocaust exhibit:


All of the people whose portraits were on display when we went live here in Memphis. At some point they will begin rotating some of them to include folks who live in other areas of the state. Here's the sign explaining that display:


There are other related historical artifacts displayed, but I was particularly struck by these portaraits with their short biographies. There's a press release at the museum web site, which says, in part:
The Holocaust Memorial Gallery focuses on the struggles and triumphs of the survivors, refugees and liberators of the Holocaust of World War II. Working in conjunction with the Tennessee Holocaust Commission, the “Living On” portrait exhibit gives a face and a voice to the survivors, refugees, and liberators now living in Tennessee. Each person displayed reveals their own stories, and the stories of loved ones who did not survive to be heard. Other displays in the gallery include Jewish ghetto currency, photographs of Jews in concentration camps, sculptures and artwork, World War II information panels and timeline, and other personal memorabilia that provides insight into this dark period.

The art works in the Asiatic galleries were easier for me to photograph for some reason, and The Daughter got some good shots, too:







There is a short history of the museum here. There are other photos at their site. They offer guided tours with a boxed lunch for groups. The lovely woman in the gift shop says they get people who come to the museum from far away, including someone from the Smithsonian, who are very impressed with this collection; and she told us that only about 10% of Mr. Belz collection is on display here.

The I Love Memphis blog has a positive review and photos. Yelp gives it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars. Trip Advisor ranks it #6 of Memphis' 86 ranked attractions.

Amazing! We are fortunate here in Memphis to have such excellent and diverse museums!